Planning for the future of Iowa’s transportation system

IA-Motion_horizontal_color-gradient.fwWhat is our transportation system going to look like in 30 years and how can the Iowa Department of Transportation adapt to the inevitable changes? Whether it’s autonomous and connected vehicles or changes in how freight is moved, Iowa DOT planners are in the early stages of building a transportation plan that looks 30 years into the future.

Andrea White, with the Office of Systems Planning, is working on the transportation plan. She says, “The Iowa DOT has developed long-range transportation plans in the past, with the most recent plan being adopted in 2012. That plan focused on policy issues and not on specific, actionable items. Our goal with the new long-range transportation plan is to provide specific strategies and improvements that will be implemented and revisited over time. This won’t be a plan that just sits on a shelf until it is time to update it again.”

Online survey keyboardAnother difference in the development of this plan over the previous effort is the attempt to involve stakeholders and the public early in the planning process. “We are hoping to have an online input tool ready to go by Feb. 1,” said White. “We want to give our customers the chance to tell us what they perceive as long-term needs for transportation in Iowa at a point in the process where those ideas can be considered. Traditionally, the process has been to take a plan to the public for comment once the initial draft was nearly complete. We’re confident that there are people out there with great ideas.”

Garrett Pedersen, with the Office of Systems Planning, is working with White on the plan. He said, “Getting public input up front will help us make this a transformational plan. There is the potential for dramatic changes to the system over time. Learning how people use the system now and how they believe they will use it in the future will help us better plan our priorities.”

“One thing we are already working on is a plan to maintain the system we need, which is not necessarily the system we currently have,” said Pedersen. “We will work with our customers to determine what parts of the system need to be maintained and at what level.”

Following the online input period, there will be a series of in-person public meetings to further discuss public input. “We’re tentatively planning these meetings for summer 2016,” said White. “The more input we can gather from the public, the more useful the plan will be.”

Within the department, plan development is being guided by an internal steering committee with representation from divisions and offices across the agency, including the districts. A smaller subset of this committee, known as the Action Plan Focus Group, is being leveraged to ultimately develop those actionable items that will help implement the plan.

“Our goal is to have the plan drafted by this time next year,” said White. Look for blog post updates on the plan development progress in the coming months. 

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